- They Recognise Gifts Are Of Grace
- They Taste Of Apostolic Hardships
- They Beget Children In The Gospel
- They Portray Example Worth Following
- They Display Power Rather Than Words
- They Exercise Correction AND Compassion
First Corinthians chapter 4, and we begin to read at verse 6, and God willing we hope to deal with all the verses down to the end of the chapter. Now keep in mind our subject tonight, because this will help you to understand these verses that seem so different in places: 'The Difference Between Those Who Think And Those Who Are'. Verse 6: "These things", and I think Paul is getting at all the things that he has said thus far, "These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?".
Now you will only have needed to be with us a couple of the weeks in our study of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians to realise that there were a number of believers within this church of Corinth that felt themselves to be superior to the great apostle Paul. That, perhaps, is very difficult for us to assimilate into our minds and hearts when we know so much about the lifestyle of the apostle Paul and what a great man of God he was, and we also know so much about the terrible sinful way of life of these Corinthian believers. Yet, nevertheless, because - as we learnt in the first couple of chapters - they had brought into their thinking and into their so-called Christian way of life, human wisdom, to such an extent, in the philosophies and the thought systems of the Greek world in which they were living, that they concluded that their wisdom - of course they thought it was the wisdom of God itself - but they concluded that their wisdom was wiser than the wisdom of God through the apostle Paul.
Of course, their human wisdom led them to exalt one another over one another, and there was the Apollos faction, and the Cephas faction, and the Paul faction, and the Christ faction. Of course, they weren't following these individuals themselves in the sense that they were in the church - they were no longer in the church, they had gone on their missionary journeys - but there were other leaders who were giving their loyalties to these men, and they were esteeming these men higher than we ought to esteem men within the church of Jesus Christ. These men, Paul never ever names them, he only names who their affiliation was to - Paul, and Apollos, and Cephas, and Christ - but whoever these men were, they were setting themselves up as superior to the apostle Paul. They had an inflated ego, they had a greater sense of their own importance than they should have had. Of course, their importance was only in their mind - and that's what I want you to see this evening, as we embark into this great study of these verses from verse 6 right through to verse 21. They thought they were something - that's the key: they were thinking about great deep spiritual things, and Greek philosophies, and the human wisdom of men that they were equating with the wisdom of God - but what they thought they were was not what they really were!
This is what I want you to grasp, and I think that if we could narrow down what Paul is saying in one short sentence, the whole of the spiritual truth to one fundamental common denominator, we could see it as this: Paul is outlining for us the difference between those who think they are, and those who really are. I hope you know that this evening, that there is a great difference between thinking and being. This Christian life, and this is the pitfall that the Corinthians made, it's not just about thinking, it's not just about theology or philosophy or ideology, it's not about that! That comes into it to an extent, and we must know doctrine, and doctrine must assimilate and precipitate down into our hearts and into our walk in the Christian conversation and way of life that we have - but there is a great deal more to the Christian life than thinking!
I think I'm right in saying that we could almost go into any New Testament book right now, and we would find that there is this demarcation line that every apostle and believing writer has ever been inspired with, and it's simply this: that there's a difference between your talk and your walk. There's a great difference between what you say and what you are. You could put it like this: what your belief is, and how your belief affects your behaviour - there is a great difference. We must not be ignorant of that, as the Corinthians were.
So Paul begins this, to show them the difference between thinking you are something and really being something. He begins in verse 6, and he says: 'These things', everything I've taught you up to now, all of these spiritual illustrations and figures that I've given to you, 'brethren' - and that's a very tender word, he's coming now in tenderness to them - 'I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes'. I think what Paul is really saying there is: 'We didn't set ourselves up as leaders, Apollos and Paul and Cephas, we didn't say 'Follow us', but men seem to want to follow us - so I'm going to demote myself in your eyes, demote Apollos and Cephas and Paul, so that I can deflate your human pride'.
Do you see why he's doing this? Why he is about to demote himself in the eyes of these believers? Because he wants them to see clearly that you're not to worship a man, you're not to follow a man, you're not to set a man up on a pedestal. So Paul begins to show up these factions and these schisms within the church, and he's wanting to give these believers a real lesson in humility. So he begins, and here it is, and it's reminiscent of what we learnt last Monday evening: 'That ye might learn', verse 6, 'in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another'. Now Paul could be talking about absolutely anything when he says 'not to think of something above that which is written', the canon of Scripture - the word 'canon' in that simply means 'measuring stick', and that's just what the Bible is, the canon, the measuring stick of Scripture. We're meant to measure all our beliefs and all our behaviour according to the measuring stick of the word of God, and as he narrows it down that could be applied to any subject in our lives, but as he comes to this issue of worshipping men and following men, and splitting the church over the issues of what personality you follow, he says: 'Don't be esteeming men to an extent that you don't find written in scripture'. Do not think of men above that which is written.
It's so important in this matter of following people and personalities, that we don't err as these Corinthians erred, and think of these people to an extent that Scripture doesn't allow us to. But let me give an air of caution here for a moment, because in the same way as you're not to think of men above what scripture legislates, neither are you to think of them less than what scripture says either. What am I talking about? Well, you've to give men within the assembly the due honour that they're worthy of. Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 13 for a moment, and this is important because I don't want people jumping on the bandwagon of these verses and thinking that they don't have to respect and honour certain positions within the church of Jesus Christ. Hebrews chapter 13 verse 7: 'Remember them which have the rule over you' - remember them! That's the oversight, the elders, you've got to remember them. It's not all right to forget them, or to forget what they say or what they have legislated, hopefully, in the word of God - you've got to remember them, that's what scripture outlines, that's what's written.
Verse 17, here's another thing: 'Obey them that have the rule over you'. As far as they are working and operating according with the word of God, that which is written, you've to remember them and you've to obey them. A lot of churches don't like this in these days in which we live, everybody has a view about something and everybody wants to implement it and take their own faction and their own view of things. That's what the Scriptures say, in the same way you're not to esteem men above that which is written, you're not to give them any less regard and honour than what the scripture says. Verse 24: 'Salute all them that have the rule over you', remember them, obey them, salute them. I tell you, I have seen people pull their sleeves up ready to hit them in this place! That's a long way off from remembering them and obeying them and saluting them, isn't it? This is what is expected of the ordinary believer in the assembly of Jesus Christ - we're not to put them above any other men and think that they're supermen, or they're some kind of saints with halos around their head, but you've got to give these men the honour that they're due. It's the same in any assembly, whatever assembly you come from.
It's important, you see this is why it's so important to do what Paul is saying and to learn what is written about how we ought to behave toward one another. So he tells us this, if you look at verse 17 for a moment in Hebrews - I've lost my place, Hebrews chapter 13 - verse 17, the second half this time: 'Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for it is profitable for you'. This is profitable, the word of God doesn't tell us to do things that are not for our own good.
Now, my friends, we must move on and look at chapter 4 of 1 Corinthians again, because we mustn't forget that Paul here is outlining the difference between those who think and those who really are. In verses 14 to 21, the second half of the chapter, he brings this message to them in tenderness - but the first few verses, in verse 6 through to 13, he comes with a real pointedness, and he lambastes these people who think they are something when they're nothing and demote even the very apostle Paul, the apostle of God to the Gentiles. The first thing that he says is the difference between those who think something about themselves and those who really are is this: those who have really got it, who are really moving on with God, who are really spiritual - they recognise that gifts from God are given by grace.
This is very important, these people who are puffed up - that's what he writes about them - at the end of verse 6: 'that no one of you be puffed up for one against another'. Do you know what that Greek word 'puffed up' literally means? 'To blow up', 'to inflate', it's derived from the Greek word that was used for a set of bellows that you bellowed the fire up with. This is what Paul is talking about: there are people in the assembly and they're puffed up with their own self importance, with their own pride, and it's harming the work of God! This was, I believe, the root to the many and various sins that there are in the church of Corinth - now we don't have time to go through them all, we've already dealt with some of them, the next week we study we're going to be looking in chapter 5 at an awful sin of incest within the people of God, within the church of Jesus Christ. We'll be looking later on at drunkenness at the Lord's Table, about the dissolving of the marriage bond and various other sins - but at the bottom of all these sins, the one chief problem was the mother of all sins: pride! Men and women in the church of Jesus Christ who were puffed up, inflated, blown up, the fires of their own self-esteem were raging, and they loved people pouring more fuel upon them.
At the end of our chapter, verses 18 and 19 use this phrase twice: 'Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you', verse 19, the end, 'and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up'. You go to chapter 5 and verse 2, talking about this incident of incest: 'And ye are puffed up', even in that awful sin he's telling them that they're proud in the midst of it. Chapter 8 and verse 1, look at it: 'Now as touching things offered unto idols', a totally different subject, 'we know that we all have knowledge' - oh, they knew all about the theological arguments about these things, but he's warning them again, here's their chief problem - 'Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth'.
You see this pride is the opposite of love, and all you have to do is go to that great chapter of love, 1 Corinthians 13, and look at verse 4, and it says: 'Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, charity is not puffed up'. If the Corinthian church was addicted to any sin under the sun, it was addicted to pride - and that was the root of all their other sin! Now what Paul is getting at here with regard to these factions and this following of men, was the pride of personal gift, the pride of personal gift. They thought: 'Well, I'm good at preaching', or, 'I'm a good evangelist', or, 'I'm good at Sunday School teaching', or whatever it may be. They took pride in the one they were following, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, and they got puffed up with this - and they were beginning to attribute these spiritual skills to the men themselves and their human ability.
That's why Paul says in verse 7, look at it: 'For who maketh thee to differ from another?'. The word 'differ from another' there simply means to distinguish, to discriminate. Paul is not denying that there are differences within the church of Jesus Christ, of course there are differences. There are different gifts, not everybody is given to preaching, not everybody is given to singing, not everybody is given to helps - and we could go through all the list, and we'll be dealing with these gifts sometime later in our epistle - so Paul is acknowledging that there is a distinguishing and a difference and a discrimination. But what is the foundation of this discrimination and all these differences? They felt that it was because one was superior to the other! They were saying to themselves: 'It's because of me that I'm different!'. Do you see the mistake between those who were thinking they were something, and those who really knew what they were? They were attributing the gifts of God to men, and that's what led them to boast about it.
'What hast thou', Paul says, 'that thou didst not receive?'. This is a gift, this is something of grace, you don't receive something that you give to yourself or achieve for yourself! 'Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?'. You're walking about like peacocks because you can do this, that, or the other for the Lord, and you have this ability for the Lord - but if you really believed that it was a gift of God you wouldn't be glorying in it in yourselves, because you would know that God had given it to you, and if God wanted God could take it away. You see this is a fundamental difference that we've got to grasp tonight, that those who think they are something before God often attribute the things that God has given them to their own self-esteem. Men are different, men are different: Apollos was the great orator, boy what it would have been to hear Apollos preaching with all the flowery rhetoric and language, and his great illustrations and alliterations and all the rest. Then you get Paul coming along, this fundamentalist preacher who's so legalistic, in the sense of being a lawyer, with the doctrines of God - he's a real theologian. Then you get Cephas who's a firebrand - and you might like Cephas, or you might like Apollos, or you might like Paul, but remember what Paul told us at the end of last week's study: that they're all from God! They're all the servants of Christ, they're all stewards of the mysteries of God. It doesn't matter what your taste is, it doesn't really matter what I like, whether I like a loud preacher - and you would imagine I do! - or a soft preacher, or whatever it is, it doesn't matter!
We have to see that the gift is not of men, but the gift is of God. We are reminded of that in verse 1 of the chapter: 'Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God'. It's that little word 'us', Paul included Apollos and Cephas and whoever else was a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. What did we find out last week? You're to regard the man - that's what Hebrews 13 tells us, remember them that have the rule over you, obey them, salute them - but don't exalt them over which the Scripture exalts them! It's important to get that balance, and I'll tell you it's important in both extremes not to pull the feet from under men, not to continually criticise men and demolish them; but at the other side of the coin it's important not to exalt them and blow their head up - and sometimes that's the most dangerous thing that you can do, because the body is a sensitive creature, when you pat it on the back the head expands! Sometimes it's harder to listen to the praise of men than it is to the criticism of men.
I think it was George Whitfield standing at the door one evening after his sermon, and a lady said to him: 'You know, that was absolutely wonderful, that was the best sermon I've ever heard'. He said: 'I know, the devil has already told me that'. You see, this is a tact that the devil often comes with. A.W. Tozer was in the pulpit one night, or just about to get into it, and the chairman was introducing him - about what a great writer he was, and a great prophet of the twentieth century and all the rest - and Tozer was then asked to get up to pray, and he stood up and bowed his head, and he said: 'Lord, forgive that brother for what he has just said, and forgive me for enjoying it so much'. There's a danger, and we've got to beware of it - and I need encouragement, don't be stopping encouraging me, I need it! - but there's a fine line, we've got to be very careful.
What is the point of what Paul is saying here? It simply this: he wants us all, the church at Corinth, the church in the Iron Hall, to get our eyes above to Jesus Christ - why? Because every good and perfect gift cometh down from above, that's it. If I can preach and you can't, and you can preach better than I can, it doesn't make a button of difference because it's of God - God has given and God can take it away. It's nothing to do with me, or education, or ability - it's of God! This is the difference between those who think they are and those who really are. You don't walk around because of your ability like a proud peacock, but you recognise that it's the gift of God and it's by grace, and if God really wanted He could take it away like that.
Let me show you this from John the Baptist, because he was a man who was rooted and grounded, no airs and graces about himself - John chapter 3 and verse 27: 'Johnanswered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven'. Verse 30: 'He must increase, but I must decrease' - there you have it! Listen, if you've got anything that's worth having for God and for Christ and for the cause of the gospel, do you know where you got it? You got it from God! All the praise and all the honour and all the glory ought to go to God!
As we move on we find that Paul changes his tone somewhat, and in verse 8 he enters into some - I think you could call it sarcasm: 'Now ye are full', look at it, 'ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you'. You're full and we're empty, you think you've got everything - of course you have! - you think you've got everything, so that means you must have everything. You think you're rich, so that must mean that you are rich. You think you're reigning as kings, so because you think it that must mean that it is all right. You often hear this statement that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour - I don't know whether that's true or not, because I find in the word of God that men of God used it. I'll tell you better than that: our Lord Himself comes very close to it. Turn with me for a moment to Revelation, the church's letters, seven of them, Revelation chapter 3 - and you know this verse too well, chapter 3 and verse 17, He's talking to the church at Laodicea, and He says: 'Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked'. Is that not what Paul's doing? Campbell Morgan calls it 'matchless satire', trying to bring to these believers that the way that they're thinking about themselves is not the way they are - it's a kind of shock treatment to get them into the real world.
Job uses it, you know his accusers, look at Job chapter 12, and all his accusers are around him, and they have sympathised with him for a while, and then they give their high-fluting wisdom - and it's human wisdom now they're giving, not the wisdom of God. They give Job all their opinions, and in verse 1: 'Job answered and said, No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you'. Sure, what's that but sarcasm? 'Oh, you're the know-it-alls, you've got all the knowledge and you've got all the answers - no doubt wisdom will die with you'. I think the greatest case, perhaps, of sarcasm in the Scriptures is 1 Kings chapter 18, turn with me - I know we're turning to a lot of verses, but it's important that we do this to keep you awake. First Kings chapter 18 - this is Elijah, he's throwing the gauntlet down to these prophets of Baal, and in verse 26 their god doesn't answer its prophets by fire: 'And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened'. Sure, he's only poking fun, isn't he? He's poking fun, it's sarcasm to get them to waken up to God really is.
Let me give you a final one, and then I'll give your fingers a rest. Psalm number 2, because if you think that God could never use this, I want you to see this very clearly in Psalm 2. Verse 1: 'Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?' - this is pride in the nations of men - 'The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed'. Now they're standing up to Christ and to God, the rulers of the earth: 'Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision'. Can you tell me that's not a sarcastic laugh? God in heaven laughing at men's attempts from their thrones and dominions to oppose the Almighty God, and He laughs sarcastically!
Thank God the Corinthians hadn't got that far, but I believe some men in our province do - when God says: 'I will mock when your fear cometh, and laugh at your calamity'. I think we're safe to say, from Paul's use of sarcasm, that he's really trying to tell these Corinthian believers that this is not God's way. God's way is not to attribute to yourself great wisdom, or great fullness, or great riches, or great talent, or great ability - that's never ever God's way. All you have to do is look throughout the Scriptures and go to Genesis 18 and look at Abraham, and when he comes to intercede before God for the city of Sodom, because his nephew Lot lives in it, what does he say? 'Lord, I've come to You, and I dare to lift up my voice, one who is a creature of the dust'. Listen to the humility there! Jacob is being hunted down by his brother Esau for the crimes that he has done against him, and what does Jacob do when he comes to intercede before the Lord? He says: 'I'm not worthy of the least of your mercies'.
Oh, there's plenty of occasions like this - Gideon, the judge, who said he was from the least of the tribes of Judah; Moses said: 'I'm not qualified to speak, why should I go unto Pharaoh?'; and Peter, who is astonished at the miracles of our Lord Jesus, he says: 'Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man'! John the Baptist: 'I'm not even worthy to loosen the shackles of His sandals'. Paul himself said: 'I have nothing in myself, but my sufficiency is of God, and I am the less of the least of all the saints'. This is powerful stuff - but do you know what's even more powerful? You come to Philippians chapter 2, and it says of our Lord: 'He counted it not robbery to be equal of God' - let me translate it like this: 'He saw it not as a thing to be grasped at, His equality with God'. It doesn't mean He wasn't God, He is God! But it wasn't something that He tried to portray before men all the time to get men to respect Him, but it says: 'He made Himself of no reputation'! What about that?
Imagine that these men couldn't bring themselves to do it, but the prophets of old, and the great apostles, and the Baptist himself, even their Lord was able to do it! That's the difference between those who think and those who really are. Now, can I just say this to you: if you look at verse 8 of chapter 4 of Corinthians, these three things that these people attribute to themselves, look at it: 'ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings' - would I be right, I believe I am right, in saying that these three things are three things that will not be realised by the individual child of God and the church of Jesus Christ until the millennium reign of Christ? Look at it again: full, rich, reigning as kings - do you see what these believers were doing? They were attributing to their personal present experience now in time things that would not be realised until the millennium reign of Christ - in other words, they were not in God's will, but they were proportioning reward to themselves already before the judgement seat of Christ!
That poses the question to us all: are we rewarding ourselves and resting before we ought? What does Paul say? 'I would that ye did reign' - what does he mean? Because if you did reign we'd all be full, we'd all be rich, we'd all be resting, we'd all be reigning and there'd be no divisions because we'd all be following our Chief Captain, the Commander of the Lord of hosts, the Lord Jesus Christ - but we're not reigning! We're going to find out in just a minute what was happening to those who really were, not those who were thinking, but those who really were - they were suffering! You see, that's the order friends, because you look at the Paul says to Timothy - 2 Timothy, don't turn to it, 2 and 12: 'Those that suffer with Him, shall reign with Him'.
The difference was, as your second point tells you, those who really were - not those who were just thinking, but those who really were - were tasting of apostolic hardships. Let's take time to look down these verses, verse 9, I want to read it, if you would allow me, in another translation - Way's translation, you'll not be able to buy this off the shelf. Listen to it, verses 9 to 13: 'It seems to me as if God has exposed His apostles to public view, like the doomed wretches who close a triumphant procession; that we - like them - have been exposed in the amphitheatre before the eyes of the world, aye, of angels as well as men. We maintain the old crude absurdities in Messiah's cause. Your faith in Messiah is quite a philosophy, but we feel ourselves poor weaklings - you are strong enough to stand alone, you are men of distinction; we are abject outcasts, we have never known your privileges. From the outset to this day we have been suffering hunger, suffering thirst, we have no decent clothing, we are victims of mob violence, we are homeless men, we have to toil hard, working with our own hands'.
I tell you, there is a great difference here: this is the difference between those who think and those who are, because while these Corinthians were philosophising in their ivory towers, fighting over childish differences and divisions and rivalries, the apostles - Paul says - 'We, the apostles, who are last, are counted as doomed men'. That's what that means, if you look at verse 9: 'For I think that God has set forth us apostles last, as it were appointed to death' - literally doomed men, condemned criminals. Let me take you to Imperial Rome for a moment, the great victorious general comes back from battle, and he has his great victorious army and battalions behind him. They throw up the rose petals of victory, and they're trampled on the ground and the perfume of victory goes right throughout the great city. But do you know what comes after all the gifts that are obtained for men from the spoils of battle? There are the criminals and prisoners and the vagabonds that they have taken with them. That's what Paul means when he says: 'God has set us apostles last' - doomed like these criminals in the triumphant procession who are going to be fed to death!
Look at verse 9: 'For we are made a spectacle' - and if you don't believe that, and you think it's farfetched, do you know what the word 'spectacle is in Greek? 'Theatron' - look at your margin if you've got a good margin Bible, the word is 'theatre', literally 'theatre'! 'We are the apostles who have been made a spectacle' - do you know what they would do with these prisoners and criminals that brought up the rear in the triumphal procession? They would take them all to the great amphitheatre, and they would have a celebration - all the gladiators would come out and fight with one another and with the wild animals, and then at the very end they would bring out the dregs of humanity, the worthless creatures of the earth, these criminals from battle, and they would feed them to the lions. They wouldn't have any armour, they wouldn't have any weapons, they were without hope - doomed men. Do you know what way James Moffat translates it? 'God means us apostles to come in at the very end, like doomed gladiators in the arena' - and do you know who are those who are looking in, the spectators? Look at verse 9: 'a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men' - do you see this? The Corinthians in their ivory towers thinking they've got everything and they know everything, and here's Paul coming along to compare to them those who really are, those who really have the truth of God, those who really are serving Christ - and what's happening? They're made a spectacle, like doomed criminals fed to the lions, and the angels are looking down astonished at what they can suffer for Christ, and men are looking on and attributing them as fools for Christ!
The difference is: this is the real thing. I'll tell you, you hear of Vietnam, and you hear of China, and you hear of Brazil, and wherever else in the world where your brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering - but I want to warn you: don't treat it like an entertainment! What I mean by that is, not getting gratification out of it, but talking about it in such a way as if it's not real, or in such a way as if you could never go through it one day!
They are fools, verse 10, for Christ - the word is 'moros', it's the word we get 'moron' from. As far as the world was concerned they were moronic! Look down this list, it's very important: 'ye are wise; we are weak', the apostle's weak, 'but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour', it hasn't stopped, 'we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted'. Could it be said of the servants of Christ today that they're hungry? That they're buffeted? That they're naked? That they have no certain dwellingplace? I read of John Wesley, and even an Irish evangelist, who went around an horse back preaching in Gallic to the people that didn't even know English, and he would have bedded down in a hedge for the night in the wind and the snow and the hail, and then got up the next morning and on his horse, and went and preached the Gospel - no certain dwellingplace!
This is a change from today: 'And they labour', verse 12, 'working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer'. If their wage that the church was giving them wasn't enough, they would go out and work for a wage. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the churches that say: 'Lord, we'll keep them poor, You keep them humble', and they nearly starve men to death - and thank God I'm far from that experience here, I'm well looked after in this church. But my friends, there's a disturbing trend that goes the opposite way: that men of God, so-called, in the ministry of God are moving and working and living for money! It's not being defamed, but it's being 'famed' now - being defamed means being injuriously spoken of, that means people speaking about you and injuring your reputation. That's what was happening in the apostle's day, but men will go anywhere to get their reputation had in honour!
'We entreat: we are made', now you mark this, 'as the filth of the world'. Do you know what 'the filth', that literally means in the Greek? 'The offscouring', you burn the potatoes and you've to clean the pot, and you scour of all that black dirt - maybe you do it quite a lot some of you, you scour off the black dirt, and it just goes to the rubbish, it's good for nothing - that's what that word is. Useless, scum, worthless, that is what the apostles were attributed as - the filth, the offscouring, it's exactly the same word. It was also used of these criminals that were fed to the lions that were useless, that were an expense to the public and were thrown in the sea or killed by any other way. It just represents the most abject and despicable of all men, the rubbish of humanity - and they would even get these men and sacrifice them to their pagan gods because they were worthless, they didn't have any family, they didn't have any jobs, they weren't bringing in any income or revenue to the government - they were worthless, sacrifice them! Picking up an old tramp, and putting him to death for their god - that's what the Christians, that's what the apostles were like to them.
We don't have time to read it, that's what all the Christians were like - Hebrews chapter 11, you go home and read it, verse 37 and 38. That's what Paul went through, 2 Corinthians 11. My friend, can I - I've so much more to say to you - but can I finish on this note: that's what our Lord went through. Do you remember what He said? 'Is the servant greater than the Master?' - is the servant greater than the Lord? I'll tell you this: He went through it in almost the same order. You look at these verses: hunger - there He is, the temptation, face-to-face, eyeball to eyeball with the devil himself. He's been forty days fasting and praying in the wilderness, and He is an-hungered the Bible says. Last night we were thinking of it, John chapter 4 - what's the next thing? 'And thirst', He comes to the woman at the well and He sits down on the well and declares to her: 'I thirst'. In Mark 14 we find that He's buffeted, He's stripped naked, He's beaten, He's spat upon, He's mocked, He's blasphemed. He has no certain dwelling place, the foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests - but the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay His head. Do you see it? He's reviled, Peter says, but He reviled not again. In John 15 He's persecuted, and He says: 'If they persecuted me, will they not persecute you?'.
Friends, we sing: 'To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all I ask is to be like Him' - and oh, we sing it with great gusto, and great feeling, but we need to waken up and smell the coffee! Because this is to be like Jesus! Do we really want to be like Him? Who can lift their eyes from these words and not feel the flame of shame on their cheeks as you think of how at times we think we are, but we are not? Don't get me wrong now, these Corinthians weren't unsaved, but they were just a group of believers who wanted a road to heaven with no thorns on it. Let me read you, in conclusion, what Leonard Ravenhill says about that little word 'the offscouring of all things': 'Any man who has so assessed himself filth of the earth, has no ambitions and so has nothing to be jealous about. He has no reputation, and so has nothing to fight about. He has no possessions, and therefore has nothing to worry about. He has no rights, so therefore he cannot suffer any wrongs. Blessed state! He is already dead, so no-one can kill him - and in such a state of mind and spirit can we wonder that the apostles turned the world upside-down?'. Here's the warning: 'Let the ambitious saint ponder this apostolic attitude to the world, let the popular unscarred evangelist living in Hollywood style think upon his ways'.
Our Father, there's nothing better for our egos than to read a good dose of this biblical biography of these men of God, these apostles who were counted last, criminals, the scum of the earth for Christ, and who were willing to be thought of us such and treated as such. While others were content to live within the sound of church and chapel bell, they'd rather run a rescue shop within a yard of hell. Lord, one who gave his life for Christ could say: 'He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose'. Lord, may we be a people that lose our lives down here, that we may find it again up yonder. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eleventh tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "The Difference Between Those Who Think And Those Who Are" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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